Eco-Efficiency and Sustainability

Our world is inundated with various problems that affect us on a global scale. Gasoline shortage, for instance, is a major problem that requires our attention. Gasoline is a non-renewable source of energy and because of our continuous consumption, we are on the brink of losing access to oil reserves around the world as the limited supply of petroleum fail to meet the demand for it. Since 1902, when the Ferdinand Porsche first invented cars that were able to run with electric motors (Juettner) many people consider the widespread use of hybrid cars as a solution not only to oil depletion but also noise and air pollution and global warming. Moreover, those who recommend hybrid cars assert that these are economical forms of transportation because people could save on the cost of gasoline. Hybrid cars are also known as sustainable forms of transportation because they do not require high consumption of gasoline as they rely on electricity to run (Zumdahl and DeCoste). However, despite the advantages and contributions of hybrid cars in lessening air and noise pollution and green house gas emissions, their use and promotion are merely “band aid solutions” to the problem of sustainability because using hybrid cars would not directly and effectively solve existing problems regarding sustainability.

Hybrid cars are expensive. Although it is an environment-friendly transportation, not many people can afford it. Similarly, companies that manufacture hybrid cars would not be able to keep up with the demand if majority of the world’s population decide to switch to environment-friendly cars (Black). Moreover, even if many people use hybrid cars, those who would not be able to afford them would have no choice but to continue using cars that consume gasoline. The conversion of cars to hybrid ones is also expensive. Other problems that consumers would experience with hybrid cars include the limited power of these types of cars and that hybrid cars are difficult and expensive to maintain. In the long run, people would find that using hybrid cars require more money, time, and effort, prompting them to revert to using cars run by gasoline. (Mi, Masrur, Gao).

Aside from the disadvantages of hybrid cars, the main reason why it is only a “band aid solution” to the sustainability issues is that the use of hybrid cars does not address unsustainable practices. Hybrid cars are merely alternatives to people who both understand the need to switch to environment-friendly cars and can afford it. Hybrid cars also consume electrically charged batteries that leak chemicals that pose danger to the environment, thus, instead of helping the cause, its use worsens environmental problems. As of today, none of the car companies that manufacture and distribute hybrid cars has offered a solution to the problem, especially when it comes to the proper disposal of batteries to prevent hazardous leakage to the environment (Stellet, Schuecking,  Steeg & Lang, 25). Another reason why hybrid cars are mere band-aid solutions is because those who belong to the upper class in society, including wealthy organizations that are capable of influencing environmental consciousness are the ones who are responsible for the depletion of gasoline and increased emission of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. The real problem surrounding sustainability lies in human practices. The predominant lifestyle today, which is wasteful and undisciplined, is the main cause for some environmental and economic problems and encouraging people to switch to hybrid cars would not influence unsustainable behavioral practices in society.

Social awareness, responsibility, and discipline are two of the most important things that public and private institutions should address and cultivate in order to solve the problem of sustainability. People must be aware of the problems so they would understand how they influence environmental development or degradation. Aside from awareness, people should be held responsible for their actions and must observe discipline so they can control and limit their daily activities to lessen their contribution to the degradation of the environment. Moreover, governments must set standards to limit the involvement of private organizations in worsening the conditions of the environment. Sanctions should be in place to discourage them from participating in unsustainable practices. Overall, the resolution of issues in sustainability lies on behavioral change.

Fuel consumption is growing at an alarming rate because of the large influx of drivers on the road and, the increase in demand for travelling. Since the current fossil fuels used by many vehicles are not effective, drivers are turning to alternative fuels which are reliable and more efficient. In the modern world, it is of imperative importance that government and industries act jointly in the effort of increasing fuel efficiency.

Fuel efficiency is more important when the cost and inefficiency of the current fuel is considered. Research carried out to explore better ways of using alternative fuels. Survey shows that, many countries are concerned with global warming, environment and other related issues.  It has not come to their minds that the cars they drive are the main source of these problems and, the alternative fuel they can use. Most of the fuels used today are petroleum fuels, gasoline or diesel.

Firstly, alternative and advanced energy has a value of reducing dependence on the foreign oil thus, saving money spent on the fuel cost and improving the quality of air. This research paper investigates on the effectiveness of alternative fuel for cars that find their application in today’s life. Alternative fuel include; biodiesel, methanol, ethanol, propane, electricity, natural gas, and hydrogen. These fuels are clean to use with very little emissions and are also renewable, unlike fossil fuels. The alternative fuels above, were investigated for efficiency and the results recorded.

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Essentially, fuel energy consumption has been a point of issue in the global field. The issue of fuel energy utilization has been a matter of contention in the global arena. Some of the aspects debated include; the exhaustion of the fossil fuel and, the ever changing fuel prices that make fuel consumption to face different challenges. However, it is solved by coming up with ways in which other alternative fuels may be utilized. The cons of the petroleum utilization require majorly the disadvantages of using the product in the combustion process.

Consequently, the interdependency of different states in the countries in the creation of source of fuel has been a problem. Some countries have found it difficult, to invest in modern technology for fear of environmental degradation.  Apparently, it is worth to mention also that, the economy would save its operating cost due the accessibility of locally available alternative fuels. The dispensation of these alternative fuels is a little bit cheaper than the normal fuel used. The aspect of effective fuel efficiency is brought about due to the ever growing population.  This has made, majority of nations to advocate for other alternative sources of energy that enhance efficiency. This aims reducing the effects of pollution and depletion of natural resources. Some of the alternative fuels are discussed below.

Bio-fuel

Bio-fuel is renewable since, it is extracted from biomass organic matter like plants. This fuel generate almost the same amount of carbon dioxide as the fossil fuels, but plants that are a source of  bio- fuel takes away a large amount of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere causing the net carbon dioxide emission to be closer to zero. Bio- fuel was found to have the capability of being reprocessed after use.

Biodiesel

This is an ester that is similar to vinegar which is made from several kinds of oils, like vegetable oils and animal fats. Most of these oils are produced from recycled cooking oil and soybeans oil. This fuel can be used as a blend of twenty percent biodiesel and eighty percent petroleum diesel called B20 which was found to have great use in conventional diesel engine without any engine modification. This fuel was found to be much cleaner than petroleum diesel; it was found to burn up at 75% cleaner than the petroleum diesel fuel. This fuel also reduces unburned hydrocarbons, carbon monoxide and particulate matter in exhaust fumes.

Biodiesel also contain no sulphur and thus reduces sulphur dioxide emission. Biodiesels were found to be environment friendly in that they are renewable and are more biodegradable than sugar. They have less toxicity when compared to salt. This fuel was found to have superior lubrication capability i.e. one percent of biodiesel added to petrol diesel increases lubricity by 65%. Biodiesel was also found to have higher cetane number than the petroleum diesel due to its content of oxygen. It was realized that the more the cetane number the fuel had, the more efficient it was and the more easily the engine could start, burn cleanly and run better.

Ethanol

The result from this research shows that, the most widely used alternative fuel for transportation is ethanol. It is an alcohol type of fuel that is typically made from corn or from byproducts of corn, by a process similar to that of brewing beer. It was found that cars that ran on ethanol have low carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide emission than the traditional cars. In United States, it was found that more than 1.5 billion gallons of ethanol with gasoline were blended to produce 90 percent gasoline and ten percent ethanol3. As a result, 10 percent of this ethanol was used across the whole country to improve vehicle performance and reduce pollution in the air. Modern cars that can use high blend of ethanol i.e. up to eighty five percent exist. They are referred to as flexible-fuel vehicles. Much controversy was found to exist in the cost, emission and the energy consumed to produce ethanol. Many believe that it is impractical and non economical.

Methanol

This is an alcohol-based fuel which is usually produced from natural gas. It can also be produced from biomass and thus has great potential of reducing petroleum imports. Vehicle powered by methanol produce a small amount of air pollutants e.g. hydrocarbons, nitrogen oxide, and particulate matter. Study has shown that though methanol is considered toxic and hazardous, it has less toxic effect to human when compared to gasoline. Methanol also when exposed to the environment mixes readily with water and degrades quickly. When compared to gasoline which has greater and longer lasting effect to the environment, methanol has proved to be more efficient.

Natural Gas

This contains a mixture of hydrocarbons and mostly methane. It is mainly produced either from gas wells or in combination with crude oil production.  This gas was found to be clean in burning generating significantly less carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide and nitrous oxide when it was compared to similar fossil fuels. In the vehicle, it has the same application as liquefied natural gas or compressed natural gas.

Propane

Liquefied petroleum gas (LPG), which is commonly referred to as propane, is made from a mixture of about ninety percent propane, two point five percent butane and contains a higher proportion of hydrocarbons4. The remaining balance is made from ethane and propane. Vehicles powered by propane were found not to run as fast as those powered by gasoline but, propane has low vehicle emissions. 64% of propane reactive organic compound emission was found to be less than that of gasoline. It also produces twenty percent less nitrogen oxide and twenty percent less carbon monoxide than a vehicle powered by gasoline.

Electricity

When used in vehicles Electricity is considered to be a fuel. Electric vehicle utilizes various kinds of batteries to store electricity. It was found that though the electricity production by itself may cause air pollution, electric vehicle does not.

P-Series

This is a relatively new different type of fuel. It is generally a combination of methylte-trahydrofuran (MTHF), ethanol, pentanes and butane. Both ethanol and methylte-trahydrofuran, can be produced from renewable biomass which has less discharge when compared to gasoline.

In conclusion, it is obvious that, the issue of fuel efficiency needed to be taken seriously in today’s society.  Steps need to be taken towards improving the fuel efficiency. However, it should be understood that the measure taken take time and recognition of a fuel that is 100% efficient cannot be reached overnight. But as the problem is understood and proper steps continue to be taken, then alternative energy will eventually find full realization and consequently proper utilization.

Fuel efficiency can be achieved by all vehicles in the near future. Today, researchers are working on fuel cell component with much efficiency when their weight size and cost are considered. Though the researchers are encountering some obstacles, fuel cell technology will provide cost competitive transportation and energy efficient that will lower emissions and reduce dependence on petroleum.

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